One Year Later: Was the Stimulus-Funded Bike Bridge Worth It?

(Albuquerque) In August of 2010, the Gail Ryba bike bridge over the Rio Grande at I-40 was opened. The project, which was funded with federal stimulus money, cost approximately $5 million to construct. And, while the fight continues over the ultimate economic impact of the federal stimulus package, we at the Rio Grande Foundation wanted to better understand the impact of the new bike bridge on local commuting habits.

At the dedication ceremony last August, West Side Councilor Dan Lewis called the bridge “another bridge crossing over the Rio Grande” and, while the statement is certainly accurate on its face, we wanted to see how many people are using the bridge and how many of those people are actually commuting to work.

To do this, two Rio Grande Foundation employees stood on the bridge, counting people and filming the scene from the bridge during a recent morning rush hour (from 7:40am to 8:30am). Video of the rush hour (which we have sped up, set to music, and uploaded to Youtube) clearly shows traffic on the Interstate Highway passing by at a rapid rate with only occasional bike or walking traffic on the bridge.

In 36 minutes of continuous video (available above or via link at www.riograndefoundation.org), a total of 13 bicyclists and 7 pedestrians use the bridge, none of them seemed to be dressed for the office or seemed to be carrying work-related items. Regardless of their purpose in making the trip across the river, that is less than one person biking across the bridge every other minute.

Said Rio Grande Foundation Paul Gessing, “The Foundation expressed its concerns about the project at the time as not being economically-stimulative and not necessary for improving mobility in Albuquerque.” Gessing continued, “After a year, it would be great if a government agency provided some data on whether or not this bridge was worth the cost, but that is not the way government operates.”

Gessing concluded, “With all of the fiscal pressures facing the federal government, it would seem that this money could have been saved and used to reduce the gaping budget deficit, but this ‘stimulus’-funded project has been built and instead provides little in the way of mobility increases for Albuquerque residents.”

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9 Replies to “One Year Later: Was the Stimulus-Funded Bike Bridge Worth It?”

  1. I saw an innovative use of the bridge when I bicycled across it Tuesday morning. A homeless guy had pitched a tent on one of the outlying observation platforms and was sleeping soundly. (I called the cops.)

    I enjoy using the bridge on my recreational bike rides, but did it really have to cost $5 million?

  2. You people will never get it. Stay in your cars, Keep eating junk food, enjoy your couch, poor health, and the quality of life you chose. We have spent billions of dollars more on roads for you. let some of us enjoy our bike trails , the outdoors, and improving our health and fitness. We appreciate the small token of helping us get around the city

    1. Very funny Dennis. You realize how many dozens of miles of bike trails that could have been built for $5 million? The thing you are not getting is opportunity cost. When government wastes our money, it takes away from stuff you might have wanted too.

    1. I’m not against bicyclists and pedestrians. This was a really expensive bridge that was not financed locally by traditional means. It was “given” to us at the expense of our children and grandchildren (debt). That money could have been used to expand traditional bike trails or for other more useful projects.

      We wanted to see if the project was really worth $5 million. I don’t think it was.

  3. I agree. a waste of tspaper dollars. Bike daily here and money could have been used to create safer routes around the city.

    Another bridge to nowhere.

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